Hacking my health and fitness
I have struggled with my vision of my body for about 15 years now. At the age of 20 I started to rapidly gain weight (genetics meets hormones meets lifestyle). By 27 I was 108 kgs. By 30 I was around 90 kgs — achieved through helpful advise from my sister and simply changing my lifestyle — from an office worker in Mumbai to a student in Leiden, The Netherlands. I have hovered between 87 and 95 kgs for the last seven years. I think I am pretty good at maintaining my weight but good does not include consistent. I cycle between various diets, from vegan to keto to intermittent fasting, and various exercise patterns — from nothing to running to Yoga.
Being immersed in the world of learning, I have finally come to believe that everything is training and if my willingness to learn is strong enough, and I can engineer the right conditions to learn, I can meet my ongoing goal of being healthy and fit.
So what does that look like for me?
The best advice I got so far was rather than how I want to look, I should try to frame the question as
What will I be able to do when I am this healthy and fit Jaya?
This healthy and fit Jaya should be able to
- lift heavy objects above her chest
- walk 10 km without her body breaking
- own her appearance when with other healthy and fit people
- not have an aching body and especially back from doing nothing
- run to catch a train or a bus
- hike with young people
I need to customize my program based on my hormone type
Rather than being annoyed by people who eat more than I do and move less than I do but appear healthier and fitter, it was helpful for me to understand my body type better. Doctor Oz explains the following hormone-types of bodies:
- The Hungry Hormone Type: Insulin and Cortisol Imbalance
- The Moody Hormone Type: Serotonin and Dopamine Imbalance
- The Sluggish Hormone Type: Low Growth Hormone, DHEA and Melatonin
I am the hungry-hormone type. This means that the insulin and cortisol levels in my body are not balanced, and I am a fast oxidiser of food.
What are the best practices for my body type?
1. Improve insulin sensitivity by
- balancing protein, fat, and carbs
- having blueberries daily
2. Reduce cortisol and improve blood sugar balance by
- having holy basil (around 2 gel caps a day for a month)
- increasing cinnamon intake: 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon
Increased cortisol is a side effect of long-term stress. It destroys muscle fibers, suppresses immunity, affects memory and concentration, and weakens bone mineral density. It also increases body fat and affects blood sugar and insulin levels.
3. Improve fat burning and glucose regulation by
- drinking 2–4 cups of green tea each day (with meals, it lowers blood sugar spikes brought on by starchy carbs)
4. Negate bad effects of stress on muscles and brain cells by
- including phosphatidylserine in your diet (100 gm before bed; white beans, cabbage, barley, rice, and carrots are also rich in phosphatidylserine)
- practicing Yoga once or twice a week
What does my balanced look like?
There is no one idea of what is a balanced diet across cultures. Balance is what is balanced for you. For my body type, it happens to be
Breaking it down into the food categories, here’s what works for me:
Cereals & grains: I need to have more of whole wheat, pearl millet (bajra), barley, sorghum (jawor), low GI rice. I need to have less of white flour.
Seeds & nuts: I can have them all, but I should watch the quantities.
Vegetables & fruits: I need to have a variety of green, red, and yellow. White beans, cabbage, & carrots are especially good for me as they are rich in phosphatidylserine (which helps to reduce stress). I need to avoid starchy vegetables, especially white potato. Non-starchy fruit like blueberries are especially good for me, and most fruit are good in moderate quantities.
Meat & fish: I don’t feel mentally good when I eat too much meat. Acceptable meats are lean cuts of beef and lamb (they are also high in purine). Salmon and tuna are also good for me. I can avoid everything else.
Beverages: Green tea (2–4 cups a day), coffee, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar are great for me. I should avoid beer, fruit juice, softdrinks and wine.
What about physical activity?
I fully understand there is no escaping physical activity. I like physical movement and exercise. I don’t seem to take to any regimes. I like my partner’s advice to
find exercise or movement that you enjoy
and another friend’s wise words
you’ll do it more when you feel better when you do it
Physical activity that I find myself enjoying enough to be consistent with is:
- Yoga (a couple of times a week with this youtube playlist)
- 10,000 steps a day (I have a fitbit to help me track it, my day average for the last three months is 9551 steps)
A recent large-scale study on 18,424 Han Chinese adults in Taiwan, aged between 30 and 70 years old, suggested that the best ways of reducing body mass index (BMI) in individuals predisposed to obesity are: regular jogging, mountain climbing, walking, power walking, dancing, and lengthy yoga practices. It’s interesting that I naturally enjoy all these activities, even though I am not Han Chinese :)
I write this journal to consolidate my thoughts and goals. I find that writing things down gives me a place to go when I feel lost concerning a goal. It is a reminder of progress and what’s to be done. That work being done and to be done is what’s next.